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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Is Church Like High School?

At annual conference, I called for "The Year of the Nones." You undoubtedly know what a none is, as the fastest growing religious population in the US, it's someone who marks "none" when asked what one's religious affiliation is. I am praying for the nones whose names were given to me at annual conference (2315 names) and I hope that you are praying for the nones in your life, too. I also hope you're using a similar method to encourage your faith community to pray for and learn from the nones in their lives.

My colleague, Bishop John Schol in the Baltimore-Washington Conference, made a video of his conversation with his daughter, Rebecca. Rebecca is a none; not necessarily disbelieving in God, raised in the church, and a wonderful human being (I've spent many hours with her and her twin sister). But she has some issues with the church! You can listen/watch the interview at: http://www.bwcumc.org/ministries/connecting/rebecca?tr=y&auid=8511504

But whether you listen/watch the interview, one of the insights I got from Becca was around the frustration that nones--young people in particular--have with the church. They believe that church people are too judgmental. This has been documented in many well-known books, such as UnChristian (Kinnaman) and They Like Jesus But Not the Church (Kimball). I thought I resonated with their concerns but Becca gave me a new insight, particularly a young adult insight that I hadn't thought about before.

Becca implicitly compares the church's judgmental attitude with high school. "High school follows you," she said, indicating that it has a continuing impact on young adults' lives. I don't know exactly what high school was like for her but my guess is that she and many in her generation have experienced more bullying, judging and negative experiences in high school than many of us who are baby boomers. There are so many ways to bully/judge each other in high school these days, including Facebook, email, and other social media. The pain of judgment, criticism, ostracism, name-calling, etc. is more recent and fresh, and easier to do than taking someone out and beating them up as was the usual means in my day (and not so frequent then at least where I went to school).

Yet almost diametrically opposed, Becca's seemed to have an expectation of a church as a group of "like-minded people." The church community as well as our general society is more and more diverse and not adverse to sharing one's own unique perspective. The church community needs to be a place where we can learn to live with each other in our un-like-mindedness in a way that is accepting of each other and in a way that teaches us to live, love and work with all those other people in our lives with whom we have un-like-mindedness.

WDYT? Is the church like high school, too quick to judge? If so, how do we live together in our un-like-mindedness in a way that helps us all grow more like Christ?