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Better Shop Around?

Friday, Dec. 30, 2005 12:48 AM

Apparently, a new trend among evangelical Christian teenagers is to 'shop around,' visiting different churches and styles of worship (still within the bounds of their Christian faith) to find those elements that help them connect with their faith.

Not everyone is pleased; some regard church-hopping as counter to the concept of faith - the pick-and-choose approach that was frowned upon during the 2004 elections, when John Kerry voiced the opinion that he supported a woman's right to choose, but considered himself a, 'good Catholic.'

Others, including sociologists and evangelical Christian parents, recognize the importance of a personal stake in faith. It is no longer a case where one's faith is a matter of family tradition.

My personal experience in faith has been similar. Growing up, going to church on Sunday was largely an exercise in rote memory. A sense of a personal connection with God only came during my senior year in high school (a Jesuit-run college preparatory), where we had small groups with two faculty moderators, and took active roles in planning and participating in the liturgy.

Still, the descriptions of youth-oriented services filled with hip talk, Christian rock, and the whole rocking/kneeling/raising one's hands in supplication strikes me as missing the point.

God speaks your language. I suppose He can talk hip-hop slang with the best of them, but His Message should resonate across boundaries of language and generation (provided we take time to listen to God as well as each other). To adopt trendy language makes God seem like a slick ad executive.

God is quiet. Elijah looked for God's Presence in the storm and did not find it. Instead, he experienced it in a perfect moment of calm in the storm's wake. Check out Jesus Christ Superstar - whenever Christ sings, it's quiet, calm, simple. It's the Pharisees, Judas, and even the Apostles who are jangling with noise and energy.

God is your friend. I can see the kneeling/rocking thing as showing humility to the Almighty Father, but consider that we can also be humble with a friend. We refrain from putting on airs, or being fearful of our shortcomings and needs, and a good friend takes it all in stride. God is shown to walk with people, not ahead or above them, nor on their backs.

God likes one-on-one relationships. In the Gospel of Matthew, Christ tells us to pray in secret, and God, who will hear us in secret, will reward us openly. All communities are also made of individuals, and teens might want to take the time to explore their faith through the perspective of solitude as well as any social avenues church may provide.

Most importantly, God is not a fast-food hamburger. It's not the slick ads or the contests or the collectible toys; it's not the healthy menu options, the crunchy fries, or having it your way. We go in search of a burger because we're hungry, and we've found some chains satisfy that need better than others ... but then, a fast-food burger has never been the basis of a good diet, whether we're talking in physical terms, or spiritual ones.

The Ministry has received 1 comment(s) on this topic.

Bindyree - 2005-12-31 03:55:33
Something I think a lot of people don't understand about God is that it's possible to have a one-on-one relationship akin to friendship. I had a friend of mine once ask me how to pray, and I told her "Do you have a best friend?" and when she said yes, I said "How do you talk to that best friend?"... and she thought about it and that's when I said "That's how *I* pray." -- as for shopping around for the best packaging of the ideals and concepts, I suppose it's no different than going to see the Chronicles of Narnia LW&W, in that if it gets the job done, that's the most important part. What *I* don't like is the various stealth tactics. Just CALL it Creationism and quit treating fellow human beings like we don't know what Intelligent Design *REALLY* is. :-P