Wednesday, March 20

in response to the latest jen hatmaker blog

*this post is written primarily about me. so if you read anything and think, "is she talking about me?", i am not. unless you are me. then i am.*

a few days ago, jen hatmaker posted a blog post about the current state of the Church. she talked about how my generation is disinterested, at best, and quoted the statistic that 80% of my generation that grew up in church have left. they describe themselves as "nones", meaning having no religion, or as de-converts. she talked about reasons why this is happening, and luckily it's not because of Jesus. because, as she said, "As far as I can tell, Jesus is still the easiest sell on earth, because if you don’t love a guy who healed lepers and pulled children onto His lap and silenced the religious elite and ate and drank with sinners, then you just don’t know Him." (source) so the key is more focus on Jesus, more focus on feeding the hungry, hanging out with the sinners, having conversations and listening to other viewpoints, and less about gold stars, good behavior, voting for the right guys, and how many memory verses you know. (which is really too bad, because i'm pretty good at following rules and i know a ton of verses.)

i, like many, read this yesterday. and i, like many, agree with it. i nodded my head as i read, i thought to myself, "yes, this. i agree. i totally see that about (fill-in-the-blank, such as my old church, youth group, summer bible camp, my christian college, etc.). i gave myself a pat on the back for not being one of those "christians" who just care about getting it right, who are there for the gold stars. i thought about how great it was that i have found a community that is so different than the rest of the Church. i thought about how committed i am to social justice and righting the wrongs of society. i nodded in agreement that something needs to change in the Church, because why else would 80% of my church-going generation have abandoned the church?

i read through the hundreds of comments that were left on her facebook page and blog, most of which were thanking her for what she says and agreeing with (most of) what she thinks. i saw this re-posted so many times, some by friends and some by people i don't know at all. 

so here is my question. and it's a question to myself, just as much as to those who have re-posted, to those who have commented about how right she is about this:

now what?

so what if we re-posted it? so what if we nod in agreement? so what if we acknowlege that there is a problem that needs to be fixed? so what if we comment about how this has also been our experience and thank her for her well thought out words? so what?

because all of those things don't actually fix anything. they don't change anything. and i'm saying this to myself, just as much to anyone else. and i'm genuinely asking, after reading this, now what? what do we do?

because here is what i did yesterday after reading it. i did my taxes, looking at how i can get every possible penny back because we are a hard working family and we deserve it. i looked at houses online, because my 1250 square foot house is waaaay to small and i just can't imagine living there for much longer. i organized my laundry room and complained to myself about all of the shit we have piled up in there and how it is going to be so inconvenient to drive all the way to goodwill and give it away. i ate lunch and complained to myself about how i weigh more than i want because i eat more and drink more than i want to, because it's in the fridge, so i might as well. i made a list of all of the cute little organizational things i need at target, because all of our crap is falling off shelves and we don't have enough closet space and if i'm gonna organize it, it will look cute. i patted myself on the back for not going to a church that would un-invite jen hatmaker and imagined how we could be friends, drinking wine, and talking about all of the injustices in the world and how we can solve them. i put away laundry into my closet that is full of clothes i don't wear, or even like, but i keep them anyway because surely someday i might need them. i tripped over my four pairs of shoes that were spread out over the house, and thought about how many more pairs i would like to buy. i sat on the couch and watched trashy tv at the end of my looooong day, because damnit, i deserve the break after all i did.

here's what i didn't do. i didn't cook food for hungry people. i didn't clothe the naked. i didn't take care of the poor. i didn't engage any of the "nones" as to why they left the church and how maybe they could give Jesus a second chance. i didn't house the homeless. i didn't read my kids stories about Jesus and talk about what it means to actually follow him. i didn't volunteer my time with something that makes an eternal difference.

and i haven't in a long time. i pride myself in being a part of a church that is all about social justice. but i don't remember the last time that i participated in serving somwhere together. (now that's not to say that we don't - i just am bad about actually showing up to those sundays. too much work.) i pride myself in living simply. but i am constantly dissatisfied with what i have, always wanting bigger and better, and not just wanting, but pursuing it. i pride myself in the fact that we purposely live in a less-than-desirable neighborhood and how we are there to make a positive change by doing life where we live, but i know two people in the neighborhood and i am desperately trying to find a different school for my kids to go to. i pride myself for being a part of teen mops, but often go begrudgingly and only because i feel like i have to, not with a servants' heart at all. i pride myself with being a "Jesus follower" as opposed to a "Christian", because that's a dirty word to some, and i want to be open to conversations and other views, not one of those stuck-up, narrow-minded conservative christians, but i can't think of the last time that i engaged one of the many Nones or de-converts that i am friends with about who Jesus is about versus what the Church may seem to be about.

but when i read something like jen wrote, which happens every few weeks, i think yes! that's me! that's what i want! that's who i am!

and then i go back to my middle/upper class life filled with first world problems and i ignore those on the edges who are desperately aching for something to change.

and after reading so many articles like the one she just wrote, i am genuinely asking - now what?

because if i really agree with her, and i really think that the Church needs to be more about following in the footsteps of Jesus, then i need to do something about it. something more than nodding my head or thinking how at last i know there is a problem so i must be on the right track. and it has to be with my whole life. because clearly my generation is tired of the separation of church and life, so if i say "yes, i want to see a change", then i have to actually do something. and so do you. so what do we do?

sell all of our possessions and give the money to the poor? ask that Jesus give us today (not tomrorow or next week) our daily bread? not worry about what we will eat or drink tomorrow because tomorrow will take care of itself? literally spend our time feeding the hungry, clothing the sick, visiting those in prison? eat and drink and talk with sinners?

that all sounds like a lot of work. but it's always what Jesus not only said to do, but did. and i think that if this is what the Church focused on, then my generation would come back.

so now what? how do i - sarah, in 2013, with two kids, a husband, and full-time job - do this? how do i foster change? how do i  help to show the wold the Good News that is "finding a safe place to struggle, to doubt, to ask hard when you’re hungry...warm, kind, genuine love extended, no strings attached....clean water, medicine for your sick baby, education,, even before ‘belief’ binds us tight....sustainable work, dignity....Jesus and His backwards, upside-down ways." (source) how do i tangibly, literally do this? how will you?

because nodding my head in agreement isn't going to change a damn thing. reading things that i agree with and challenge me, and re-posting them, isn't going to change a damn thing.

real, honest, raw, hard work - that's what is going to change this generation and bring the de-converts back to Jesus. loving the unloved and showing that the Church is about more than getting it "right" is going to bring in those on the fringe. actively working towards social justice, unconditional love, equality (and not just by 'liking' pages on facebook) is what is going to show my generation who Jesus really is. talking isn't gonna get us there.

so now what?


Mark Currey said...

i read the article too... and i think your response is exactly right... in fact, it may be the intended response. i am asking the "now what" question every day. seems like i have been for a couple of years. not sure any one of us can answer it but i am hoping that some of us, together, may at least begin to see a way toward an answer. thanks!

Carol said...

Thanks for keeping it real. I am still asking some of the same questions, and quite frankly, there are no easy answers. All of them include dying to self, which I suck at and am loathe to do when it comes right down to it. I do think there is something to be said for doing the lives we have with joy and contentment. The reality is - you are already doing a lot of the right things - you (according to you) just don't feel the right way about them. Love you - glad to hear your thoughts.

sarah said...

yeah, that whole "dying to self" thing is a pain! and i agree that it's missing the point if joy and contentment aren't involved. it's just got me thinking about how much i actually do, and how much i should do, and how i should do it...and like you both say - no easy answers.