As I was saying in my previous post about Christians, I want to propose a new way of talking about our assumptions and certainties that opens up the door for nuance. We are going to see, in the next 10 to 20 years, a universal acceptance of 1) evolution as scientific fact and 2) gay marriage as a universal and widely accepted right and 3) climate change as human-caused and 4) probably some other “pet issues” that Christians live and die for. Just imagine what it will do to a generation of young Christians being raised to believe one thing as a heaven-or-hell fact while the whole rest of the world settles into an entirely different reality. Forget for a minute whether or not you are “right” about these things, consider what will happen when your sons and daughters grow up 100% surrounded by people who do not believe what they believe. What if your sons and daughters start to adopt, even partially, the beliefs of their neighbors. This is inevitable, but it does not have to be the end of one’s faith. We are going to lose a whole generation of young people to an intellectual battle we cannot possibly win – and by the way, we have already won the spiritual battle. Can’t we just go “who cares” to some of these things? Essentially, responding to your hypothetical or real child, “You can believe in Jesus and evolution at the same time, that’s okay with me… I personally believe in Jesus and (maybe some other thing).” Saying “who cares” in the sense that, our assumptions are permeable by new facts, information, reality, other peoples’ experiences. What if you meet someone who is gay and loves Jesus, where for the first 20 or 30 years of your faith you never had before? Do you discount that they are gay? Or do you deny that they are really someone who loves Jesus? Or do you adapt your belief system to this new person?
I want Christians to be able to hold onto those views, but with an open hand. Convictions, beliefs, tenets, traditions, these are all very important! Our brothers and sisters before us died for these. Yes, believe those things, be for / against whatever you want. But so much more importantly, hold them in a way that you can move from Environment A and Environment B (and C and D…) without being destroyed. Trust me, you will not lose your connection to Jesus if you discover a person who smokes weed and goes to church regularly. There are such people. It does not mean that you have to smoke weed, too, or that you even have to think that what they are doing is right – just be open to the possibility of connecting with this person, loving that person, recognizing that they are connected to Jesus in exactly the same way as you (by grace) and maybe, just maybe, they belief something about weed (or whatever) that you might believe, too, someday.
If we end up forcing ourselves and our community to choose between Jesus and every trivial bullshitty thing that comes up in our world, we are going to lose Jesus in it. That’s really the only way. You can’t hold up the no weed, no sex, evolution-isn’t-true, vote Republican thing, and a thousand other small trivial and losing-battle-things as equally important. That’s the lack of nuance – not everything you believe is of 100% ultimate importance. Some of the things that you and I believe are not that big of a deal.
On the one end, I am thinking of the young Christians going off to college, but in another sense I am thinking of the rest of the world. When we as Christians go out “into the wild” with a long list of firmly held certainties we look like fools, and we cause damage. We have to be able to adapt and change our values based on the very often true criticism of the world. Going out into the larger world of college, and certainly into the workforce, opens many a young Christian’s eyes to the horrible treatment of the church towards the GLBTQIA community, and certainly towards women, and the poor, and other marginalized groups. The world sees the hardheadedness of our certainty as a lack of love, which is so often what it is.
Imagine a Christian with such security in their connectedness with God that they can receive new information, criticism, someone else’s experience without running back to their old church, without building a wall to keep that other person out, without abandoning their faith. Imagine what kind of community that would create if people could have sincerely held but different beliefs, and yet still connect with each other and with God together. Consider what would happen to young Christians who found that their old belief system “worked” in their church, but that it could flex and adapt to their new experience. We would not lose any more people in our community to self-discoveries about their sexual or gender identity, we would not lose people to trifles about political bullshit, or divisions over finances. We would connect and grow in, and because of, the important things and people. We would connect with God and each other without reservation or fear, and we would keep each other close even as we “move away” from one environment to the next.