The internet is still swirling with backlash and commentary over Rachel Held Evans’ CNN article on “Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church” (to see Crosswalk’s initial report on the trending topic, click here). Yesterday on Mere Orthodoxy, Jake Meador penned a response to the notion that “the Church must (and will) change along with millennials” that Evans noted in the follow-up piece to her CNN article. Meador’s article, entitled “The Rise of the Chicken Little Evangelical Blogger,” drives home the point that the Christian church has withstood centuries of violence, voices, and opposition – and that evangelical bloggers pushing for change are near-sighted and misdirected.
“In the minds of certain Christian bloggers, privileged white millennials and their nebulously defined intuitions and impulses pose a greater threat to the long-term flourishing of the church than the Coliseum.”
Meador certainly strikes a chord. The Church has been “burned, beheaded, disemboweled, and flayed alive and come through it all.” Unfortunately, as he alludes, much of the violence done to the Church has been perpetuated by the Church itself. Zwingli, esteemed theologian and peer of Martin Luther, drowned thousands of Anabaptist believers while he held government office. When the Roman Catholic Church held power, Protestants suffered persecution; when Protestants reigned, Catholics were tortured. And no one needs to be reminded of the Crusades.
It could be argued that the institutional Church is always trapped in some form of wrong-headed thinking, whether it be violence, or apathy; neglect of the Scriptures or misuse of the Scriptures. Perhaps young Evangelical bloggers like Evans believe that every generation of the Church has changed, and will continue to shed and gain certain beliefs, in order to better seek the Lord.
According to Evans, and many other young evangelicals, the church should welcome those who question and doubt. Inarguably, droves of young people have been leaving the church because they are told they must have an “all or nothing” approach to the Bible. Rachael Slick, daughter of Christian apologist Matt Slick, shares that this very experience caused her to abandon her faith altogether, because she logically concluded that doubting certain parts of the Bible or accepted Christian theology meant she had to reject the whole of Christianity.
Similarly, in Crosswalk’s article “Exit Interview” by Tim Laitinen, a young woman called Karla leaves the Church, jaded and scarred after fellowshipping with Christians defined by hypocrisy, lies, and malice. Karla admits,
“Gossiping, drinking, marriages ending in divorce because of infidelity… They claimed others were wrong for being homosexual, and that their Bible teaches against those things, but it also teaches that gossip, fornication, and over-indulgence are wrong as well. Why can they ignore some teachings while telling others that what they are doing is wrong?
“I was really disappointed in the lack of compassion for others outside the Christian faith… I really expected Christians to be more understanding of others, and didn't find that much at all.”
This aligns exactly with the sentiments Rachel Held Evans espoused in her opinion piece, that young Christians “want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities” and that they “want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.”
Perhaps Meador is right, and the noisemaking of evangelical bloggers will fade away as Millennials learn how to conform to the Church. But perhaps every generation truly needs young voices to remind them that some traditions are wrong, some theology is bad, and sometimes we don’t best know how to interpret the Bible.
After all, Galileo was arrested and imprisoned by the Church for believing that the earth revolves around the sun, something the Church at the time insisted was a heretical and unbiblical notion. And after all, voices rose up to condemn the drowning of Anabaptists and the Christian massacres of Jews and Muslims. Perhaps the Church has changed more than we realize, and will continue to grow and shift as it endeavors to best reflect Jesus Christ.
Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor for Crosswalk.com
Publication date: July 31, 2013