So it’s been pop culture Christian overload lately with Glee last night – Dear Cheezus (one of the main characters praying to a grilled cheese sandwich that happened to be burned with the face of Jesus into it – very random considering that the news was covering a woman who found the face of Jesus in her MRI but neither here nor there…) and watching the movie Easy A a few weeks ago.
Christianity is so often a parody or stereotype but I’m glad to see television, movies, and media really trying to engage in the conversation even in random ways. In Easy A Christianity becomes the hate/bashing/judging yuck of quintessential stereotypes, and yet I think that’s how a lot of people associate us. If I was playing family feud right now (new obsession thanks to my wonderful students who hounded me until I accepted an invite) what would the number 1 answers be for – describe a Christian? I hope we would not do too terribly, but I have a sinking suspicion that it wouldn’t be all that great.
A recent Pew study just came out in Christian Century and it was saying that one of the challenges for declining worship attendance/church membership is that the group that most self-identifies as having “no religion” are 25-34 year olds http://ow.ly/2OFU9. It’s a good article and I like that it is looking at worship attendance instead of typical church membership because it seems that less and less people want to actually “join” even though we are great at “joining” things and “liking” things on facebook. There’s just something about doing it in real life that seems to freak people out or turn people off or make them think that there’s this big commitment or wapow! sudden change that’s going to suddenly happen.
The study also looked at why people are attending church less frequently. Is it demands on time? Is it lack of commitment? Is it cultural/social/any kind of relevancy? Is it a time or schedule thing? Is it inconvenient? Does it not meet our criteria of being a “good enough” use of our time? I don’t know. Maybe it’s all of these and a ton more that no one wants to admit or say outloud.
I had lunch with a student today and we were talking about Wesley. In case I haven’t told you this is what some would call a rebuilding year for us. I kind of don’t like that language and am not sure if I even want to type it, but we graduated a huge group of seniors last year and in many ways those were our leaders – the people that showed up consistently and really rocked it out. That can have a big impact on a group. Trust me. We’ve also had a lot more people with night classes and schedule changes and blah, blah, blah. Bottom line – you can’t please everyone and there’s no good time for everyone to meet. Maybe we should just move it to Sundays at 11 am – just kidding. Anyway in our conversation we talked about the balance of wanting Wesley to not be a place of stress or people feeling like they have to come even if they’re swamped with schoolwork, etc. but also the kick back of not wanting Wesley to always be put on the back burner of whatever comes up in the many other activities these students are committed to. You want to give grace and you want people to not be overwhelmed, but then again do you want to make it so easy for them to pop in and pop out that they miss what it means to be committed to something?
Is that how we treat our congregations or worshipers? Do we notice when some of them are missing or just randomly show up once every other month? I’ve never been someone that says we need to bow down to the sticker chart in the sky of how many times we’ve been to church over the past year, but I also think I’m a bit guilty of not taking seriously the commitment of being part of a community of faith or of realizing that worship, community, and the body of Christ matter more than we sometimes give it credit or rationalize away.
We know we can turn to the church when the chips are down and we don’t know where else to go, but where do we go when we’re happy or things are going well or when life just gets too busy? Is “church” the first thing to get cut from the to do list, when a better offer shows up? Nope, we’re not getting extra brownie points here, but we’re missing out too.
You don’t just go to church for the numbers or the “memberships.” You go because there’s something about intentionally sharing and being in community with people you wouldn’t necessarily spend 10 minutes with outside these walls. There’s something about letting your guard down and being family that is sacred. There’s something about breaking bread and opening up to someone that can’t be undervalued. It’s not always easy. It’s not always convenient. It will often challenge you. And maybe sometimes you do feel shut out, unwelcome and frustrated. But you don’t chuck it all over the little things – or it must not have meant that much to you to begin with.
Watching Glee last night and still actually being within that age range that the Pew study was talking about – I don’t think it’s that people don’t care about religion and maybe it doesn’t even have to do with commitment level (even though I think this has some to do with it for all ages), but maybe our Christian story is not as clearcut for everyone. Take for example Donald Miller’s blog post about the Blue Like Jazz movie http://bit.ly/aUcLb2 . It’s hard to find backers for a “Christian” movie that’s not a typical clear-lined story. I hear completely what he is saying. But there are a lot of Christians that don’t have a hallmark movie story. Not that there’s anything wrong with the hallmark movies or those of us that fit that mold, but there’s also nothing wrong with a little Lifetime thrown in either. Just kidding. I’m not advocating the drama, but I’m saying that maybe our Christianity sprinkled with a little pop culture (Glee – Easy A – don’t forget Saved – and many more) speaks more to the fact that people are trying to sincerely search, question in deep ways, and claim both a brain and a foundational belief in the Gospel. It seems like the conversation is changing – but I’m not sure that everyone is realizing that or if it’s changing at all for some folks.
Christianity doesn’t always fit neatly into certain parameters, and I don’t think Jesus did either. But he did challenge and he did call forth something different – something not always easy and something you had to commit to. May we not just show up for worship or believe on the inside, but may we also live out, question, challenge and nurture our faith in a variety of ways! Looking forward to continuing the journey with you!
So if Family Feud asked you to describe “Christians” what would you say?