I am a believer, but you won’t see me in a church on Sunday.
As a 20 year old, I realize my faith journey has really only just begun in the grand scheme of my life. However, over the past 7-10 years of my life, I’ve come to some conclusions about my faith, and how I see fit to pursue it.
To start off with, let me say this: I am not saying everyone that goes to church regularly is a hypocrite and a horrible person. I have a lot of really great friends who are members of churches in town, and my best friend’s dad is a youth minister. I am only sharing one point of view, and I absolutely acknowledge that there are other, valuable ones out there as well… however, this is my article, not yours.
That being said, let me take you back about 6 years ago to the 2007-2008 school year. I had been a member of a local youth group for almost 3 years, and I really enjoyed the fellowship I got from being in a church setting weekly. We had gone through 2 youth ministers in my time there, and while the transition was tough at first, our new youth minister was a nice enough guy and we still had a lot of fun while also growing in our faith together. There were probably 150 students on any given Sunday evening when the program was at its peak. At the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year, things started changing. At first, the band that seemed so different from the other churches in town, and who played a lot more modern Christian music that was more accessible to our age group was told they would only perform once a month instead of weekly. This upset a lot of us, because who doesn’t like to sing and dance around while still worshiping God? Then, the sermons started being recorded. At first I think we all figured it would be a temporary thing, and we would go back to normal with a live person talking to us rather than a recording of the man who was supposed to be helping us grow, and who also happened to be standing in the back of the room. As time went on, it became very clear that this was not going to be a temporary thing, and we were told that these very large changes were in order to bring in more people to the church. After having talked with several different leaders in the church, I was really irritated and flustered one Sunday, and took to Myspace to vent my frustrations. While I recognize now that spouting off at the mouth wasn’t necessarily my best course of action, the events that followed were unacceptable. I was chastised by the lead pastor’s wife for even speaking up. I was told that we had already been given the reasons for the changes, and that I was just going to have to adjust. While this certainly didn’t sit well with me, I kept going, figuring I would at least finish out the year and see where the road took me from there. While in discussion with a friend a few weeks later, I mentioned my unhappiness with the way things were going. This friend was a year older than I was and was on the audio tech team at the time and shared with me that the same woman who had chastised me forwarded an email conversation she had with a student to a team of people and then discussed it with them in a meeting he was included in. I forwarded him the conversation between she and I, and asked if that was the conversation that had been discussed. He was shocked that I had this email too and asked where it came from. Shortly there after, I stopped attending the church, and haven’t been attended one regularly since.
While I realize that this woman was not speaking for the whole church, nor was she in any way shape or form in a position to kick me out, etc. she represents a much larger problem for church goers of my generation. As a general rule, we are more accepting of each other than the generations that have preceded us. We aren’t shocked by tattoos or piercings, and most people can have a dialogue about an issue rather than having it immediately blow up into a full blown argument. Adults in our lives vary on this issue, and that is where the disconnect is. For some of us like myself, we were raised by parents who were more accepting of people who strayed from the “norm” than others. Some of us were raised by the opposite, and have seen the ramifications of judgment that can come from living our lives the way our elders have before us. Some of us are choosing to live in the more judgmental way our parents brought us up, and while I personally find that sad, you can’t change people. That being said, the church should not want to change us. God is supposed to be all loving, and the only one who can truly judge us for our sins, because as humans, we are all sinners. I’m pretty positive that in the Bible it doesn’t specifically say “No nose rings or belly button rings or you are going to hell.” So when churches or other religiously affiliated organizations turn people away, or treat people poorly because they don’t see things the exact same way, we get offended. I’ve tried other churches, however I’ve not found one that I ever truly felt home in. My younger sister ran into these issues several years later when several students and adults at the youth group she was attending (at a different church than the one I had attended) created a petition to have a student removed from the youth group because she was bisexual. A friend of mine made the decision recently to transfer colleges because of similar judgment from professors at a “Christian” school.
So, here we are at the impasse I alluded to earlier. Do you want younger members in the church? Do you want to build a future that expands beyond the children of church leaders who have to go to that church weekly without a choice? Do you want to continue to turn people away because of the way they dress, their friends, or their sexual orientation? You cannot have it both ways with us. Sure, there are some people my age who are glad to subscribe to your ideology, but they are becoming fewer and farther between. So, I challenge the religious community to become a more accepting, welcoming one who loves all people instead of choosing which sins are worse than others and who to judge more harshly than others. Then, maybe you’ll find me in church on a Sunday. Until then, I’ll be reading my Bible in the comfort of my own home, and waking up whenever I feel like it.