March 3, 2011
A response to Anthony Bradley’s recent op-ed in WORLDmag.com, “Evangelicalism’s Bitter 20-Somethings.”
Well, it’s true; there are a lot of bitter 20- and 30-somethings out there. And Bradley says a lot of true things about them:
—The Bitters tend to gravitate toward Christian hipster culture
—are on a mission to expose the “conservative conspiracy” wherever they can find it (or create it) under the guise of “healthy critique.”
—To define one’s identity in terms of being “not like them” seems cowardly (which, let’s be honest, if 20-somethings raised in conservative Evangelical churches are doing, well then the apple just isn’t falling very far from the tree, is it?).
While these critiques of bitter 20-somethings are valid, I believe Bradley is wrong about the motivation behind the bitterness being mere attention-seeking. What Mr Bradley fails to do in this didactic broad-brushing is address the legitimate side of the coin. I agree that my generation needs to understand what Church actually is—that cutting the Church is cutting on one’s own body—this realization leads to a compassionate, heart-broken criticism of the Church’s ills, as opposed to trendy, prideful, the-old-way’s-so-lame diatribes. However, that doesn’t necessitate that those immature diatribes are wholly illegitimate, or that immature diatribes is all that’s there.
It seems from Mr Bradley’s comments about conservatism that he believes conservatism in all its forms–from “Drill, baby, drill!” to “We believe the Bible is true.”–is absolutely right and the only viable way to be a Christian, that the only reason young adults are rebelling against it is because they’re attention-seeking, “protest[ing] things dear to the hearts of their elders.” Again, I think there’s truth in that diagnosis. But certainly one does not have to be a Republican to be a Christian. Don’t be patronizing, Mr Bradley.
So what can we do as a church to reach out to 20-somethings? Well, we can do exactly what Mr Bradley is not doing: pay attention, listen, ask their input, enlist them, value them. Don’t cater to them, moving the whole body when and how and because they want to; that will only serve to making them more spoiled, and when things go awry, they won’t recognize their part in it all. But love them, mentor them, read what they’re reading, and respect them enough to shoot straight with them, lovingly, but straight. Church has to be a safe place for them to experiment with their faith, their political beliefs, and even to some degree, their lifestyle choices. Better they experiment under our umbrella of loving protection then out from under it. But it can’t be just that; there has to also be room for actual diversity in these areas. It is when we are united in Christ despite all our differences that we give the world pause.
This blog post originally appeared at reneamac.com/2011/03/03/bitter-20-somethings/
About the Author
Renea McKenzie is a former staffer at Probe Ministries. She graduated cum laude from Dallas Baptist University with a B.S in Kinesiology and a minor in Biblical Studies. She went on to receive her M.A. in Liberal Arts and English Literature at DBU, and is currently pursing her PhD in Humanities at the University of Texas in Dallas where she specializes in The History of American Women's Novels, African American Novels, and History of the US South. In between completing her Masters and starting her PhD, Renea spent a year studying at the famous L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland founded by Christian worldview pioneers Francis and Edith Schaeffer. She is presently a regular contributor at Thinking through Christianity, and you can contact her through her blog, Speak What We Feel, at firstname.lastname@example.org where she continues to answer your tough questions about Christian living in the nitty gritty everyday.
What is Probe?
Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.
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