Thursday, March 22, 2012

Left Behind?

I wrote a little about this in a previous post, but the topic has come up again. Rachel Held Evans, who has figured out a way to make just about anything she writes go viral, wrote two pieces this week about why she left church and why she's returned to the Church, even if in non-traditional form. It's spurred furious conversation across the social media stream - and it's something near to my heart.

A lot of these issues and questions are those with which I've struggled and wrestled over the past decade or so. I, unlike many, was fortunate to have found a supportive and encouraging community at Nazarene Theological Seminary. It was a safe place to think and explore, peopled with experienced mentors who foster a safe place to work out your faith with fear and trembling. Actually, there was not much fear or trembling - usually just encouragement that others have made a similar journey and come out healthy on the other side.

It breaks my heart that others have not had similar support in their struggles and have made the sad decision to disengage from a faith community. There is a growing divide. When I talk to my peers and those younger (a group which is growing disturbingly large with each passing day) these concerns are almost unquestioningly understood, even if they're not shared. There is a sense of space and freedom present that just doesn't seem to jibe with the attitude of previous generations.

I think there is something to the sociological proposition that these postmodern generations have a lack of faith in, or reliance upon, institutions. We're just more comfortable with ambiguity. I have seen, in my own denomination, how unprepared the system is for the force of change already deeply embedded in the next generation of leadership. Things are going to look very different.

As we prepare to embark on an unknown journey, it's a bit daunting to do so without specifics. I've got a real burden to provide a safe place for people, like Rachel and so many of my friends, to explore and seek and doubt without having to give up a community of faith - even to provide a community of faith that isn't defined entirely by what we believe so much as what we're after (and I do wholeheartedly believe we're all after God).

It's easy to doubt we'll see any success. After all how many people out there are really interested in thinking deeply about anything in this superficial day and age? There are these cries of solidarity that help to reinforce this belief with reality. Even as those kindred spirits seem so few and far between, I have to trust that God will draw us together and others from the woodwork as we take the risk to be open and honest.

I don't believe God is intimidated by our internal complexities; I sort of believe they are intentional.


Odist_Abettor said...

Thank you for this, Ryan. I'm sure to a large part that love and welcoming are more a factor in those with whom people chose to spend their time than whether or not one feels they are more right.

Ryan said...

Yeah, I think it ultimately leads back to our Protestant over-emphasis on right belief as the means of salvation. If someone's eternal destiny depends entirely on what they believe, we're less patient to let people take their time "coming around." This leads to a less than loving position in many cases.