Longform recently listed these fascinating articles on Contemporary Christian Music. Sadly, they were all (save a couple uninteresting ones about Insane Clown Posse and Bob Dylan being Christians) about people who had fallen from the faith. One is a direct author account. Another is semi-personal, but wrapped around a story of the Creation Festival. The last is about how the lead singer of Pedro the Lion strayed from Christianity.
The older I get the more I experience Christians straying from faith and it depresses the heck out of me. I think about it all the time. Mostly about what I or the church could have done differently. In one sense, I feel a little weird about that, because I want to respect everyone’s personal journeys and individual agency. It’s not like everyone is a mindless automaton such that their environment completely determines how they’ll turn out. At the same time, I do think environment affects what people decide for on their own. I know that’s true for me – I don’t think I’ve arrived at the beliefs I hold in some purely objective vacuum. At any rate, I think constantly about what could or should have been different about church.
One thing I’ve concluded – the evangelical church does its children no favors when it isolates them. I feel like that’s been the evangelical modus operandi for the past few decades. Keep from the world. Duplicate it where you have to (e.g. with CCM), but keep it separate. That just doesn’t work in most cases. One common theme among these stories and others of Christians who have left the church is that they felt their eyes were opened when they were exposed to stuff outside their bubble. That’s not how it should be. You can’t shut the entire world out. Every Christian needs to know what’s out there, in terms of culture, ideas, whatever.
That isolation being bad goes for age also. Jieun and I attended this really interesting seminar a while back at Saratoga Federated, where the speakers had done a bunch of research on what makes kids raised in Christian homes most likely to leave the church when they go to college. The group least likely to leave were those that came from integrated churches, meaning where all ages worshiped together. I’ve been thinking about that ever since, and the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. That’s the other thing churches do – divide by age, with children’s groups, youth groups, whatever. I see the point to it, but at its extreme, kids never get to see how Christianity is lived out in different life stages, so when they leave one life stage, they’re unprepared for the next. I think I read somewhere a long time ago that college kids who exclusively belong to parachurch ministries are more likely to leave the church than those who attend church-based college fellowships. I don’t actually know if that’s true, but if it is, that also makes sense to me along similar lines. Life isn’t like college, and if that’s all you know, it leaves you less ready for what comes after.
So anyway, I’ve done a complete 180 on how kids should be dealt with in church. Before, I was all about segregation by age. That way kids could get what they need and adults aren’t distracted. I still think that’s OK and good, but I also think there needs to be many opportunities for all ages to be in real community together. As many as possible.
One thing I think every one of those articles gets right – although they’re all written by non-believers, they recognize that fans of Christian music are incredibly kind and accepting. I used to be deep into CCM and I found that to be true. No matter how strange you were, the scene wanted you there, and they were way more understanding – even supportive – of questioning and doubt than evangelical Christianity in general. Good, sincere people.
Boring. OK, some London stuff to end. There are little things here that I simply can’t get used to, don’t know if I ever will, and on their own, they’re trivial, but as they pile-up throughout the day, I find them exhausting. For example:
Celsius. I simply can’t get used to this. I changed my iPhone settings to C to force myself to think that way, but it hasn’t worked – I just find myself confused and forced to do the mental calculations in my head. It’s exhausting. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. Mostly because it’s not me that depends on it, but dressing the kids. When it’s just me, who cares if I mess up. If it’s the kids, it’s a huge deal. Why can’t I just get accustomed to it? No clue. One thing that bothers me is that it’s less precise than Fahrenheit, and that seems like a step backward. Centimetres I can support – more fine-grained than inches. But a degree of Celsius seems so clunky.
Date formats. They list the day first, then the month and year. For the record, I think this is way more logical. But I simply can’t get used to it, and every single time I see a date (which happens with surprising frequency, far more than you’d realize if you never thought about it, which I never did before moving here), I need to pause and think if I’m looking at U.S. or U.K. data. Exhausting.
Calendars. They’re formatted that Monday comes first in the week here, Sunday last. Again, seems like no big deal, but I come across date pickers a lot more than I realized, every time I set a meeting or buy a ticket for something. Every time, I get a little bit annoyed.
Coins. £1 and £2 are coins, not bills. I also think that’s more logical in the U.S, but again, can’t get used to it. In the U.S, change is basically useless. Here, especially with the exchange rate, £2 is a freaking lot. That can buy 8 whole pieces of seaweed at a Korean restaurant. Not something to let the kids play with and potentially lose.