Repost (and Some News): Why I Like My Grandma’s Church

I have good news and bad news. First the bad news: I won’t be able to update the blog for a few weeks. That means you’ll be getting a series of “best of” posts. But the reason I can’t update the blog is (cue good news) I’m working on a secret new project. I think you’ll like it. I won’t give too much away, but it involves evangelicalism, robots, and Tasmanian tigers. And don’t worry–I’ll let you all know as soon as it’s ready….

So now, here’s “best of” post number one:

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Check out the original post here, or just keep reading.

As any cynic knows, the easiest targets are previous generations. It’s simple for millennials to be cynical toward people who are older than us:

  • They’ve already had a shot at running the world. That means all remaining problems must be the result of them screwing up.
  • They have different views of morality and propriety. This obviously means they’re prudish, bigoted, narrow-minded, and generally wicked.
  • They’re, well, old. So we can point to hilarious examples of why they’re silly–look at those old people with their sagging skin and high pants and McDonalds coffee! They can’t even use Facebook right!

When cynics look further into the past, things get even easier. We can make whatever sarcastic joke we want. It could be unfair, and even untrue (Victorians were afraid of sex! Puritans hated fun! The Middle Ages were full of ignorant superstition!). It still sticks.

This is all part of a millennial conviction that because we’re young, we’re both smarter and purer than all previous generations. That sounds cool and edgy. But it’s nothing new. It’s a rite of passage for every generation. Whenever young people reach a certain age, they believe that–by crushing all who preceded them– they have reached the pinnacle of wisdom. By the brilliance of their newness, they’ll (finally) fix the mistakes that old people made by the dullness of their oldness.

An example of this thinking was a slogan bouncing around my Twitter feed a while back. It was for some new downtown church, and said:

“We’re not your Grandma’s church.”

The cynic in me nodded approval. It brought images of decrepit scowls and wrinkled faces curved in frowns, disapproving of the young people because we dared to question their sacred cows. It also patted my millennial conceit that every generation that came before mine was stupid.

But the more I thought, the less I liked it. You see, I’ve actually been to my Grandma Pat’s church.

She goes to an evangelical church in the retirement suburb of Sun City, Arizona. The congregation is entirely old people. Until his death this past year, Grandpa Sid sang in their choir—an avalanche of snowy hair reaching rows above the pastor. And judging from my last visit, Grandma Pat is best friends with every parishioner.

There’s plenty of fodder for hip millennials. The church is fervently pro-America and pro-Israel. Their musical tastes seem frozen in 1972. And a couple parishioners made comments about immigration that made me cringe. That new downtown church probably had this kind of stuff in mind.

But that ignores the bigger picture. Like how the congregation is still bringing their octogenarian neighbors to Jesus. Or how the parishioners cope with death and serious illness with calm resilience and confidence in the promises of God. Or how they showered my Grandma with attention and support after my Grandpa died.

I don’t know how that new church ended up, but they’d be lucky to be my Grandma’s church.

It’s easy for generations to develop a clan attitude–our group is right about everything, and every other group is wrong! For young people, it’s the belief that all old people are narrow-minded bigots. Generational change is a sign of progress–out with the old, and in with the new. For old people, it’s the belief that all young people are selfish, lazy bums 1. Generational change is a sign of decay–things were so different in my day!

Both attitudes are wrong. They’re also self-destructive. Whether you’re eighty or eighteen, before you make a snide remark about some other generation, keep these things in mind:

  • All young people will be old some day. And all old people used to be young.
  • Don’t assume a couple moral blind spots makes a whole generation worthless. Every generation has them–including yours. Be honest, but also be charitable.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back to ranting about how much better music was in my day. Just kidding. But it really was…

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1  That’s right, old people–I’m not letting you off the hook!

Photo courtesy of Grace Bible Church

Do Evangelical Celebrities Really Have Worse Kids?

You may have noticed this post is a couple days late. That’s because my original post was *gasp* shrouded in CONTROVERSY.

Sort of.

My original post’s argument went like this: (1) a declaration that the children of evangelical celebrities are, on average, worse people than children of normal evangelicals; (2) a personal anecdote about a jerk evangelical celebrity kid who I went to high school with; and (3) speculation on why evangelical celebrity kids are worse people.

Before I post anything, though, I ask my wife to review it to make edits and stop me from saying anything stupid. And this time, Danielle’s “anything stupid” detector was blaring.

Continue reading “Do Evangelical Celebrities Really Have Worse Kids?”

Let’s Quit with the “Toxic” Talk

There’s a term that gets thrown around a lot that drives me crazy, both for rational and irrational reasons. That term is “toxic.”

It seems especially popular with Christians on the Left1 for describing things they dislike on the Right. Traditional sexuality is toxic. The concept of hell is toxic. Complementarianism is toxic. Missions culture is toxic. Etc., etc., etc.

I don’t want to get into the substance of those controversies. In fact, I agree with some of those critiques. Instead, I’m just giving reasons why we should stop labelling any beliefs we don’t like as toxic.

Continue reading “Let’s Quit with the “Toxic” Talk”

“Evangelical Apocalypse:” Rejecting Both Naivete and Cynicism

This week, Ross Douthat had an article that hit close to home. In fact, he pretty much summed the purpose of this blog. You should read the whole thing: here it is.

For those of you who didn’t follow the link (for shame!) the article is about how Trump’s presidency has been an apocalypse for American evangelicalism. An “apocalypse” in the original Greek meaning is “an unveiling, an uncovering, an exposure of truths that had heretofore been hidden.”

Unless you’ve spent the past three years dwelling in the wilderness and surviving off honey and locusts, you know it’s been a particular apocalypse for evangelicals. It’s easy to assume that this apocalypse will reveal two sides–the good side and the bad side–and that the good side will win. As Douthat explains:

I’d like to tell a simple story that describes the Patterson scandal [link added by me] as an inflection point — after which Moore’s kind of Baptist will inevitably increase while Jeffress’s kind diminishes, as the “judgment” that Mohler describes leads to a general reckoning with the pull of sexism and racism within conservative-leaning churches.

But to assume that’s necessarily going to happen is to fall into the same inevitablist trap that ensnares both arc-of-history progressives and providentialist Trump supporters. Instead it’s wiser to regard an era of exposure like this one as a test, which can be passed but also failed.

I agree. We shouldn’t sit back in a triumphalist assumption that “those evangelicals” will inevitably lose and history will vindicate us.

But the opposite is also true. It’s easy to look at the struggles in the current apocalypse and get discouraged. It can even lead us to apathy and (wait for it) cynicism. But that shouldn’t be our response. As Douthat explained when he accidentally wrote the tagline for this blog:

So the question posed by this age of revelation is simple: Now that you know something new and troubling and even terrible about your leaders or your institutions, what will you do with this knowledge?

That’s what this blog is (hopefully) about. Finding a way to move forward from the disappointment and frustration. But doing so in a way that isn’t naive or cynical. Instead, it’s a way that is clear-eyed and gospel-centered.

The apocalypse should be a call to self-reflection and to prayer. And hopefully, it can lead to renewal.

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Photo by Formula None

The Enemy of My Enemy Is Not Necessarily My Friend

This take may have cooled a bit, but I’m still going to give it. I wanted to chip in my two cents from the CPAC Milo Yiannopoulos fiasco from a few weeks ago.

For those who haven’t heard, CPAC–the largest conservative political gathering in the country–invited Yiannopoulos to be a keynote speaker. For those of you who haven’t heard of him, you’re lucky. I’d rather not go into detail, but suffice it to say he’s an alt-right/neo-nazi darling who gets attention by doing things that are sexist, racist, and shocking. He’s also spoken in favor of pederasty. In short, he’s not a great person.

So why did CPAC, a group that’s supposed to care about conservative values, want to feature him?

Simple: Yiannopoulos really, really, really ticks off liberals.

Continue reading “The Enemy of My Enemy Is Not Necessarily My Friend”

How to NOT Be a Cynic at Church: Part 4

In my last post, I rejected a perfectly fine church because it wasn’t perfect enough. In this post, I finally find a church that is utterly perfect. On paper. I also realize the endgame of my cynical perfectionism.

Googling

Shortly after moving to Los Angeles for law school, I googled “Anglican churches LA” on a Saturday night. I didn’t expect to find anything. Instead, I stumbled onto a link for something called St. John’s Anglican Church.1 Shrugging, I clicked on it. It was one of those “continuing Anglican” movements that broke from the Episcopal Church years earlier to maintain doctrinal purity.

I read their website with widening eyes. They checked every box on my dream list. Apostolic Succession: check. Commitment to sound doctrine: check. High Mass: check. They even had Orthodox icons along the side of their web pages.

After years of toil, I allowed myself to hope. Was my rejection of all other churches about to be rewarded? Continue reading “How to NOT Be a Cynic at Church: Part 4”

How to NOT Be a Cynic at Church: Part 3

In my last post, I discussed my four requirements for a perfect church. They were:

  • A feeling of antiquity
  • High church trappings
  • Minimal change or commitment from me
  • Perfect doctrinal blend of liberalism and conservatism

When I moved back to Colorado Springs, my quest was to find a church with all of these qualities. I figured that in a city with that many churches, one of them was bound to suit me in every way. For instance, maybe there was…

  • Some pastor with hip glasses and a neck tattoo who started a church in a renovated train station downtown. Amidst the Victorian spindles and chandeliers, our services would employ some ancient, underappreciated Rite you’ve probably never heard of–Celtic maybe. Afterwards we would all ride our bikes to the new coffee place to sip espresso and discuss the trendiest new social causes.

Continue reading “How to NOT Be a Cynic at Church: Part 3”

How to NOT Be a Cynic at Church: Part 2

Last time, I described my love of the Anglo-Catholicism of St. Mary Magdalene’s Church in Oxford.1 But alas, my fairy tale love could never last.

The first reason is obvious enough. When the semester abroad ended, I had to go back to America. And there aren’t any thousand year old churches here.2

But the Mary Mag’s experience couldn’t last for a more fundamental reason. It was a rushing confluence of things–being in a new country, learning a new theological tradition, experiencing new ceremonies and sacraments, and meeting new and interesting people. And I was doing all of this with a group of evangelical classmates who were enamored by the same newness as me. Continue reading “How to NOT Be a Cynic at Church: Part 2”

How to NOT Be a Cynic at Church: Part 1

My family and I go to International Anglican Church1 in Colorado Springs. For those interested in such things, it’s part of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). We think it’s a great church, and we’re happy and content.

But it took me a long time to get to “happy and content.” And I ignored a lot of perfectly fine churches along the way. Maybe you’ve been there too: so enamored with the thought of a “perfect church” that you refuse to see the good in other churches.

In this series, I’ll share the lessons from my too-long search for the perfect church, and how my cynicism kept me from being content. Continue reading “How to NOT Be a Cynic at Church: Part 1”