Tag Archives: Faith

You lost me. No really. What are you guys talking about?

Next week we’ll be continuing the discussion of walking away from faith. For those of you who want to catch up, here are links to all of the posts so far:

Generation Gap – Who are the millennials or mosaics or whatever we want to call them? [BTW] Ben Trube, Writer

Generational Distinctives – What makes the millennials different than previous generations? Bob on Books

How would you describe yourself? – What words do millennials use to describe themselves? [BTW] Ben Trube, Writer

Nomads, Prodigals and Exiles – How are different groups “lost” to the church? Bob on Books

Faith Outside the Church – The journey of a sometimes nomad, sometimes exile. [BTW] Ben Trube, Writer

Christianity and Me, part 1 – What a prodigal admires about faith. Brian D. Buckley

Christianity and Me, part 2 – Why am I not a Christian? Brian D. Buckley

One final thing to leave you with for the weekend: an interesting story I came across today on NPR that seemed relevant to this topic.

For An Ex-Christian Rocker, Faith Lost Is A Following Gained – Exploring the loss of faith through music.

Thanks to everyone who’s commented or posted so far! If you have anything you’d like to talk about, or questions about this topic, please leave them in the comments.

Happy Friday! Beware of Snowmageddon!

2 Comments

Filed under Faith + Life

Faith Outside The Church

Yesterday, Dad discussed the three kinds of people “lost”to the church (outlined by David Kinnaman in You Lost Me): Nomads, Prodigals and Exiles. Some quick definitions: nomads are people who have drifted away from church, but still consider themselves Christian, prodigals have outright rejected Christianity in favor of another religion or no religion, and exiles are people who may not fit in with their church community, but have a heart for practicing their faith out in the real world and in everyday life.

At times I have been a nomad, and others an exile. Because of my dad’s work in undergraduate and later graduate ministry, I’ve always had a model for Christian life both in the university world (and the real world careers beyond) and the church world. I tended to favor the former, enjoying trips up north to Cedar Campus, and later manuscript study and hour long expositions of scripture by thoughtful and in depth readers of the Bible. Faith and religion were something that could be approached with the same rigor as other fields of study.

But my traditional church experiences varied widely. Since I was five years old I’ve had an on again, off again relationship with my parent’s church. One consequence of summers spent up north, was that for years I missed the youth camps at Camp Bethany, and subsequently had a harder time fitting in with a tight knit crowd of people. I craved the same deeper experience of faith that I’d been shown in Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship, but instead was served lighter fair that perhaps took a single Bible verse as inspiration, but then talked largely through illustrations that had little to do with life.

This is not to say that IVCF was perfect for me. By the time I got to college and actually joined an undergrad group of my own, I had a tougher time fitting in there as well. Some of this was an early emphasis on building leaders which I felt some pressure to participate in because of my Dad’s role on staff (none of that pressure was coming from him by the way), and some was the unusual makeup of this particular chapter. Because of this, and later a relationship that separated me from church and family for a couple of years, my first few years of college were spent thinking of myself as a Christian, but doing little to build my relationship with God. Choosing to end a destructive relationship, and being invited to reorient myself back toward God through another college ministry led to the series of events that now has me taking a more active role in my parent’s church, and also resulted in my meeting my wife.

I’ve been fortunate throughout that my parents have provided both a model and encouragement for practicing faith both through writing and through my profession. I’m doubly fortunate to have a pastor now who has a real heart for the community, for society, and for exploring ideas deeply. But I’ve seen the desire for Christians to withdraw within their own community, to reject the pop culture and music of today’s society, and while I haven’t experienced a lot of first hand questioning of my more mainstream desires of writing, I know it’s out there*.

I do feel we are called to practice our faith in all aspects of our life, to live and breathe scripture. How we do that can vary widely, an sometimes is as small as being a good example, of practicing love toward others rather than judgment. I’ve met many Christians who practice this in real life and am grateful for their example. I agree with the sentiment (repeated by Kinnaman) of us needing to be “in but not of” the world. At times I have been “of but not in” the church, and I do think that many of my generation are inclined toward a more non-denominational, or even non-organized religion stance. I still find little particular value in denominational differences and doctrines, what Dad might call “Jesus and”, but this is probably a subject for a whole other discussion.

Has your experience of faith put you in exile in your church community?

*You can read more of my thoughts on not being a Christian Writer, here.

4 Comments

Filed under Faith + Life

How would you describe yourself?

Is the millennial generation “discontinuously different” than the generation before it? Are changes in technology and culture shaping a generation that is unlike any that have come before.

David Kinnaman explores this question in Chapter 2 of You Lost Me, the book my dad and I are reading together on young Christians walking away from faith. Last week I talked a bit about the split I believe exists within the millennials. Dad then continued the dialog (sorry Dad, I refuse to call it a blogversation 🙂 ) with a post about three distinguishing characteristics of the mosaic\millennial generation: access, alienation, and skepticism of authority. I think Dad correctly assesses that alienation and skepticism are characteristics that have been present in at least his generation and mine (and probably the Gen X’ers as well). Access, or the ubiquity of technology is the thing that may uniquely characterize our generation, and even my perception of a split within millennials.

But how do millennials describe themselves?

According to a 2010 Pew Research study cited in You Lost Me the five things millennials use to describe what’s unique about their generation are the following:

  1. Technology use
  2. Music/Pop Culture
  3. Liberal/tolerant
  4. Smarter
  5. Clothes

Previous generations use terms like work ethic and morals to describe themselves, respectful is also popular. And pretty much every generation believes it is smarter than the last.

I can’t argue with point 1 (Technology Use), sitting in front of the TV listening to music on my headphones while typing on my netbook with my Kindle open beside me. At least the beagle curled at my feet is analog and not digital. I think the toughest question our generation will face is how we raise our children with technology, but that’s the subject for a future post.

Point 2 (Music/Pop Culture) kind of makes me wonder when the question was asked. Are you telling me that boomers of the 60s and 70s didn’t describe themselves as having unique music and pop culture? I have a feeling that if you ask any 20 something what defines them, music is going to make the list. But if you ask each generation in the same year, but different times of life, this answer might change.

Point 3 (Liberal/Tolerant) is again born of the legacy of the civil rights movement. We all tend to be more liberal when we’re younger and that’s where the millennial generation is right now. Many of us, even Christians, see the issues of gay marriage and same sex rights playing out in our culture as the next logical step of the civil rights movement begun in the 60s. We don’t have the same reaction to war that our parents did, at least not to the same extent, but many of us feel as strongly about what happened during the war in Iraq as our parents did about Vietnam. Perhaps as we grow older we will grow more settled, more conservative, less radical and more traditional, as our parents did. This doesn’t seem quite so “discontinuously different” to me. It’s not conservative, but it is morality and values, just a different set of them.

Point 4 (Smarter). Millennials are smarter. Of course we are. Get used to it. Every teenager is born knowing everything there is to know about life, and their parents have nothing to teach them from their decades of experience. It’s just useless to even try. Hopefully members of the previous generation have at least the rudimentary intelligence to realize I’m being a bit sarcastic here. The human brain hasn’t changed much in 2000 years. We just get better at storing information and making it available. That doesn’t make us inherently smarter. Pluck a child from the 10th century and plop him into the 21st and assuming he doesn’t die from shock, he’d learn to adapt pretty quickly. Get over yourself.

Point 5 (Clothes). Those who know me well know I have nothing to contribute to this question. I do not care about clothes. I am not a man who is defined by my clothes. Nor do I particularly think from what little I’m able to observe that our generation has contributed anything particularly unique to clothing, except for maybe wearing less of them. Taken more broadly I might classify this as consumerism which defines Americans as a culture, not just a generation. I don’t think millennials are the first to do this, and we aren’t going to be the last. (Yes, Dad my house is full of books and media because we went to Half Price Books all the time as a kid, that one’s on you 🙂 ).

This may be how we describe ourselves now, but in 20 years we might have a different set of words. Maybe we’ll be less honest with the question, most likely our view of ourselves will have changed over time. We’ll have a better understanding for our relationship with the world and each other, and how technology shaped us long term. And maybe we’ll see what we have in common with the generations that have come before, and the ones that follow us.

How would you describe your generation? Does that describe you?

5 Comments

Filed under Faith + Life, Trube On Tech

Losing our faith is personal

And so is keeping it.

There’s been an article circulating about “why millennials are leaving the church“. Leaving aside the argument about what exactly a “millennial” is (I believe there’s an additional generation gap between people who’ve used a floppy disk and those who haven’t), why does anybody leave the church?

For me it was dating.

In the late 90s early 2000s there was a trend going around christian circles of “kissing dating goodbye”, of only considering dating as a path to marriage. This is kind of a drag for a guy in high-school and early college life. Note, I’m not talking about sex, just hanging out, having a good time and getting to know a person.

Dating someone who doesn’t believe in God can lead you to drift away from your faith. It doesn’t have to, but God didn’t talk about not being “unevenly yoked” for nothing. For me I wasn’t making a conscious choice to leave the Church, but my actions were making the choice for me. After a particularly bad relationship ended I realized I needed to repair my relationship with God, and that’s ultimately what led me back to the church (and happily to my future wife).

That’s my personal experience, but I know plenty of people who leave the church for the reasons outlined in the article (seems too judgmental, interested only in superficial change, not engaged with social justice, anti-intellectual). But even though these are common ideas in the culture about what the church is, I think it’s important to realize that not all churches are the same.

What is a church? It’s not buildings, or denominations, it’s people. Whenever two or more Christians are gathered together that’s a body of Christ. “Millennials” are not a single homogenized group, and neither are Christians.

My church is concerned with social justice, both in serving the poor in our community through schools and a food pantry, but also for reaching out to the “exurbs”, communities with no name, no government to support them. We’re multicultural, intellectual, traditional and non-traditional together. Yes, our pastor does wear jeans and sandals, but it’s not a hipster act. He even listens to NPR.

My dad works (as an IVCF staffer) with graduate students and faculty at OSU, helping them to not only grow in their faith, but share it with others. These are serious scientists in chemistry and physics (one of his former students is now working at Fermi, another at Argonne). It is possible to reconcile science and faith.

But most importantly Jesus is definitely in the house, in our life groups, in our ministry, in our daily prayer life. And it’s not just us, trust me.

There are bad churches, just as there are bad groups of people. Not everybody who calls themselves a Christian is a nice person to be around. But we millennials are not a group who let one bad experience, or even a series of experiences, color our view of Christianity as a whole.

That would just be BS.

5 Comments

Filed under Faith + Life

There are always possibilities…

Believe it or not there are some scientists who believe in the possibility that science will one day prove (or at least strongly suggest) the existence of a god. Probably not the one that all the world’s religions have been talking about, but a god nonetheless. This group of scientists call their belief system creatively enough, “possibilianism” a term coined by Jürgen Schmidhuber, an AI researcher who blogs from time to time on Ray Kurzweil’s singularity site.

Suffice it to say there are many who feel that this ignores a preponderance of scientific thought. Their argument basically goes, just because a thing is possible doesn’t mean it’s likely, especially if all experimentation to date seems to lead to the conclusion that the thing is not possible. Gary Marcus in his New Yorker piece, likens this to a belief in flying reindeer. Stating it is possible if there are sleighs we have not seen ignores the fact that all evidence points to the fact that reindeer do not fly.

Unless you are younger than 7. Then you can ignore what I just said.

Here’s the thing, I do think that an understanding of science, mathematics and the physical world can help to solidify a belief that this world was divinely made, but I also think it’s possible there are reasons why science is not the best tool to answer this question.

One possible reason is related to the Tower of Babel, the story of which you’ll find in Genesis 11: 1-8, and alluded to in a recent story on this blog. I’ve always found this story fascinating, both in blaming it for the fact that I had to learn different languages in high-school, but also the goal of the people building the tower in the first place. They wanted to build a tower that “reaches to the heavens” or put another way, to touch the face of God.

Now it’s pretty obvious that the technology of that period of human history probably couldn’t even have scratched the surface of moderate high-rises in Columbus, let alone the buildings in Dubai, or the fact that we’ve reached out into space. There was no actual possibility, even if heaven were a place that could be reached simply by building upward, that these humans would ever reach God in this fashion.

Why then does God react the way he does, taking their one common tongue and changing it so none of them can understand each other? Verse 6 refers to the fact that if they all speak one language, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.

I have a feeling God wasn’t just talking about these particular humans, but about us as well. And I don’t think it’s that he perceived us as a potential threat. It’s just that this is not how we are to get to know God. The basic goal of the people building the Tower of Babel was to bring prominence and prestige to themselves, not to have a real understanding of God.

If we were to prove God’s existence, or even to meet him in a living context (leaving aside for the moment that most belief systems say we’d be struck dumb with awe) there’d be a sense that we did something. Certainly the scientist who proves the existence of God will have untold wealth and fame. But is this really the basis for a belief, for a relationship with God, for salvation. I actually give the human race a lot of credit. If we spoke with one language, and one mind, I bet we could literally find God. But that might not actually do us any good if it did nothing to change our hearts.

Even simple things we cannot prove like love are valuable to our lives, in many ways precisely because they exist on faith, not only blind belief, but the desire to act out of love, to keep love alive, and the desire to experience it.

It’s certainly something for a scientist to say God is possible. It’s something more for us to believe it as individuals.

3 Comments

Filed under Faith + Life

Seeking a Quiet Place

Monday wasn’t a good day.

I honestly was not sure if I would write about Boston or if I would proceed with business as usual, but I think I need to take a moment to stop and reflect.

I spent most of Monday in a programming haze and didn’t come up for air until 4pm when I flipped on the radio and heard everything. The little red haired girl had a similar day, getting work done for the church and running all over town, so it ended up being me who first told her. As we listened to Brian Williams later in the evening it was clear that although the death toll was comparatively low to some of the other horrible events we’ve seen (even in the last year) that wasn’t the true cost. The tales of amputations and lacerations brought to mind bombings in another part of the world, not something that was supposed to happen here.

Not that this should be happening anywhere.

Frankly I feel a little ashamed. Jo Eberhardt in Australia wrote a beautiful peace on how events like this affected her and how she moves forward. I’m not sure I’d have the same reaction to a bombing in Australia, let alone the Middle East, or Syria. Well, maybe now that I have some friends and fellow bloggers in those parts of the world, but I’m not going to pretend I’m always paying attention.

Dedicated NPR listener that I am, I tend to switch to music if the topics become too serious on my drive to and from work, and I tend mainly to focus on technology stories, supreme court cases, or politics. I don’t watch the nightly news, ostensibly because I am working on “the book” or spending time with the wife. But the truth is, I don’t want to depress myself after a long day at work.

But weirdly when something like this happens I find myself drawn to traditional media. I’ve always liked Brian Williams, especially when he lets Jon Stewart poke fun at him on The Daily Show, but I also think he’s as close to an impartial journalist as we can get, besides a few of the reporters at NPR. I watched the news for an hour on Monday, then I switched it off and watched Hitchcock to get it in the mail for our Netflix queue.

And I’ve been staying away from Facebook.

There are some great outpourings of love, support, and prayer. There are quotes from Fred Rodgers, but I think I was out when I saw the kittens praying for Boston. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it’s wrong to express yourself in this way. If it helps you or others to deal with these events, then by all means go ahead. Me, I need to hide in my office for a bit, or blast something heavy and electronic on my car radio (currently Archive’s Controlling Crowds).

I’ve been listening to old SNL’s lately. In addition to the rise of some of the classic cast members like Will Ferrell and Daryl Hammond, it’s reminded me of what was going on when I was growing up. There was Waco, the OJ murder, and the Olympic bombings of 1996 (which are being evoked in the media now as a way of reminding people how long the investigation might take). There was the Oklahoma City bombings, and of course 9/11.

I’m remembering all of those days, not only the events themselves, but the ordinary things that were going on in my life at the time. Having my friend Chris (who thankfully is safe and was not in the part of Boston where the explosions were) over for pizza after Oklahoma city. Getting together with a girlfriend on 9/11, and going home hoping Mom had heard the news so I wouldn’t have to tell it to her. And I remember the concert we sang after 9/11, how my choir director was the first class to turn off the TV and have us sing America the Beautiful.

There will be national unity, and then there will be partisan bickering. We saw it a few months ago with Newtown. We’ve been seeing it while we’ve been growing up. And it can be hard. It can be hard not to let events like this become a weight, something to discourage you, something you need to hide from. It’s hard not to be cynical.

But I don’t want to be.

There is goodness in people. Good outweighs evil. God is greater than the evil of this world.  I know this to be true in the quiet moments of reflection and prayer. In writing.

I want this post, these moments, these thoughts to be my prayer. Prayer for compassion, for faith, and for empathy for more than just the problems of this nation. I pray for strength, for knowing that God is good, and for not sounding too much like a nut, but nut enough to write it to all of you. I pray we all find comfort in these hard times, those of the last few days, the ones we’ve grown up with, and the ones that are to come.

Amen.

3 Comments

Filed under Faith + Life

God, Jesus and Zombies

My pastor didn’t time the crucifixion right.

By Palm Sunday, when Jesus was supposed to be walking into Jerusalem, he had already risen from the dead and appeared before the disciples.

Oh well, maybe next year.

But what is a good theme for Palm Sunday? Zombies.

Zombies are a bit of a cultural obsession right now (and one I’m afraid I don’t quite understand). A number of my friends are preparing for the coming Zombie Apocalypse and there are more than enough films to reinforce the idea coming this summer to a theater near you. I kinda understood vampires (Spike is cool) but even they are undead creatures without a soul, and an inclination to violence, destruction and spreading like a disease.

Kinda the opposite of the resurrection right?

Christ is not undead, death has no hold over him. He’s not a mindless killer, but instead opens hearts and minds to faith and to his fulfillment of prophecy. Zombies and vampires can only create more death or more of themselves, spiraling down to ultimate destruction. If the whole world were zombies, then the zombies could not survive. What if the whole world believed in Christ?

This idea of contagious faith intrigues me.

As a Christian I find myself apologizing at the start of conversations, or clarifying that “I’m not with those guys”. The behavior of other people who happen to claim the same beliefs as me can be a little embarrassing  You wanna see real zombies, just take a look at the members of the Westboro Church.

I want to find ways not to just grow my relationship with Christ in a bubble but to genuinely share it. To be bubbling over with faith so that anyone I interact with will be affected. I’m not saying I want it to be part of every conversation, or to suddenly change all of my writing, or anything like that. I just want someone to meet me and go, “there’s a guy who believes in God” as opposed to “there’s a guy who likes Star Trek and Fractals.” though that’s fine too.

I have something like 13 Bibles sitting on my shelf (maybe closer to 20). I don’t read any of them, since I have several good ones on my Kindle. And while I was weeding my books I was thinking of selling them. But I don’t want to sell them, I want to share my faith with others and give them to people. I’d kind of like to make it a life goal to talk to enough people to give away all the Bible’s I’ve acquired. I just don’t know exactly how to go about it yet.

Fact is, right now the blog is how I encounter people of different faiths. Work is pretty conservative and “christian” and even for those who are not of the same faith it’s not a great place to witness. The rest of my time is either spent at home with Hannah, working on books, or interacting with friends in the Church. I don’t want to be in a bubble, but right now life has kind of put me in one.

I realize this is sort of a prayer on paper, I’m writing some of the things I’ve been thinking about with God. Fact is if not contagious I’m at least bubbling about a lot of things besides my faith. Fractals, Star Trek, Writing in General, Babylon 5, anything tangentially computer related, video games, etc. Why is faith something I only seem to talk about on Sundays or the occasional plaintive post?

I think life can make us like Zombies, can rob us of zeal and of sharing the things that make us who we are. If it’s the drudgery of routine, or TV, or the same meal every Tuesday or whatever, life can get us down.

As always I want this blog to be a place where that isn’t true.

In what ways do you share your faith, your cherished beliefs?

PS. Pastor Rich’s sermon has some pretty great stuff about Zombies and more. You can hear it here, or read a transcript here.

6 Comments

Filed under Faith + Life