Listen

We had really nice holidays with family.  It was lovely to see everyone.  My parents’ home is always welcoming and comfortable.  It is a place to relax and hide from the world.  My in-laws’ house is always welcoming and bustling.  I am grateful for my families.

I tried to be socially acceptable with my socially adept in-laws.  I had instructions not to talk about certain topics and did pretty well.  This was made easier by running off to see my cousins where I was free to laugh at inappropriate jokes and stories about an aunt who called her daughter’s back massage tool a vibrator.  In church. (snicker)

However, there was a book at the in-laws house called You Lost Me.  It was about the grave problem of 20-30 year olds leaving evangelical Christianity and what the fundy church should do about it.  I read the first few chapters.  There was fear-mongering and a few select stories shown to illustrate the author’s views of why people left.    Love of science was included as a reason for leaving, but only because there were not sufficient Evangelical role models in the scientific community and no other reason.

There was also a large portion dedicated to proving that this generation is fundamentally different from any others.  Instead of valuing hard work, we supposedly value pop culture.  Yes, we are a lazy, selfish, shallow generation concerned with celebrities instead of God.  According to some.  No matter that we actually work more for less than our parents’ generation.

While packing a lunch for the road, I mentioned I had skimmed through the book.  I wanted to say 2 things.  One, that the book did not accurately describe myself or any of my friends.   And secondly, that James Fowler’s Stages of Faith would give more insights into our journey.  I assumed it was the faith journey of her children my m-i-l was most concerned about.

I never got to the second statement.

I was told that I was wrong about my first observation.  The author had done his homework and surely knew why so many 20-30 year olds were leaving.  Obviously, I am too young to understand my own thoughts.

Not only that, but it is too bad that young people now don’t know their bibles like our parents and grandparents’ generations do.  This surprised me.  From conversations previous, I discovered that my lover and I had a greater knowledge of the bible than my in-laws.

Not only were my lover and I Quizzers (meaning we memorized much of the New Testament and went to competitions), but we are nerds.  We have many translations and used to love going back to the Hebrew and Greek and compare the words in different passages.  We’re not bible scholars by any stretch, but as children we believed those who told us studying the Bible was one of the most important ways to spend out time.  We started reading through the entire bible at ages 6 and 8.  I’m not even sure anyone else in his family has read the whole bible.

Before you think I’m bragging, believe me,  I wish I had spent that time hanging out with friends.  Or even watching Simpsons.  (We weren’t allowed.)

“Really?  You know the bible better than we do?” I asked.   The quizzing part of me was ready for a bible duel.

Pause.  Clarification: they might not know the actual bible more, but they did know how to interpret it better.  I hadn’t memorized catechisms, only most of the New Testament (yes, I’ve forgotten most of it).  Otherwise I too would remain as steadfast in faith as the grandparents.

If I knew church doctrine, I would know that the Old Testament was really about cruel people, not a cruel God.  God needed to demand innocent children be killed.  He is merciful like that.  I was being sinful by questioning God.  Obviously my mind was too small to understand how mercy and judgement are intertwined.

“I guess some people can manage larger cognitive dissonance than others,”  I was able to say.  Everyone agreed with that.

I tried to finish my opening sentence when I was informed that my generation did not listen.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or roll my eyes.  Then I was saved by my peacemaker husband who said he needed my help with something.

I recounted this conversation to my father who asked me if I did listen to people’s reasons of why they stayed in church.

I have listened to my in-laws reasons many times.  I don’t agree with their reasons, but I used to say the same things.

Leaving was not easy.  Not at all.  I could only face things when I had a social support network that did not require  me to hold any particular belief.  I stayed in the fundy mindset for too many years for many reasons.  I don’t judge people for staying.  I know some people have more to lose and less resources to pull them through.  Some feel needed in a community and just don’t want to hurt others.

I do, however,  feel free to judge people who use the word ‘listen’ to mean ‘agree with me’.

6 thoughts on “Listen

  1. What’s sad to me about this, is their lack of willingness to truly empathize, to put themselves in your place and genuinely ask why people might leave the church. I think it’s because there’s a danger there–that if they see your reasons and understand them, that they might agree with you.

    It’s easier to deal with “answers” that fit their worldview and don’t challenge their assumptions.

  2. ... Zoe ~ says:

    As I read through this I felt like I was there with you and I was wondering how I would respond to them. I think it is very difficult to consider that maybe just maybe one has dedicated themselves to a lie. If just one part, just one brick loosens then it is quite possible the whole wall will crumble and rather than let that happen they must stop the brick from becoming loose. That means that they actually can’t listen to you. I think it’s not just an issue of they “can’t” . . . but they won’t. It has to be the other way around for them. None of what is happening in the church can be their fault or their generations fault. It’s in their minds all about your generation. That lessens their responsibility in all of it . . . which actually when I think about it, makes it all about them.

  3. I had heard about You Lost Me and was curious myself about its content. I had half-expected some hard-hitting research. From what you say, it sounds quite the opposite.

    I would have been right there with you, ready to debate! 🙂 But it probably wouldn’t have done any good. I think both aprillikesbikes and Zoe raise excellent points. They have invested so much of their lives into their faith that to question it is frighteningly unfathomable. The excuses raised in You Lost Me are too easy, too comfortable for them to question, because it provides a simple solution to buttress their beliefs.

  4. Ahab says:

    Christian apologists make so many assumptions about why younger generations are leaving the church, but their assumptions aren’t always right. Maybe they should try listening to disaffected Christians and ex-Christians. Geez.

    I’ve never heard of YOU LOST ME, so thank you for the tip. Another book on the same subject — Ken Ham’s ALREADY GONE — also explores the subject of younger generations leaving the church. Ham assumes that teaching young people Christian apologetics will assuage this human hemorhage, but I think he’s missing the big picture. Young people are living in different times with vastly more information that their predecessors, and traditional forms of religion may not resonate with all of them.

  5. prairienymph says:

    I agree that listening is dangerous to preserving one’s worldview. I am fine with not sharing my story to people who don’t want to hear. I just don’t like being blamed for it.

    I didn’t read all of _You Lost Me_, so it may have some good things to say. I only skimmed the first few chapters.

    They were right on when they pointed out bible knowledge does not translate into evangelicalism, but rather training for a specific way to read the bible.

  6. They accuse you of not listening. Their irony sensors must be broken.

    This post reminds me of a conversation I had with my sister shortly after I left Mormonism (so many parallels!). When I told her I no longer believed, her eyes widened in shock and she asked why. I told her I’d been studying Mormon history and had discovered well-documented and indisputable facts that were inconsistent with the propaganda (I didn’t use that term, was much more delicate) fed to members by the Mormon Church.

    I said, “I can go into details if you want me to …”

    Her immediate and panicked response: “No! I don’t want to know.”

    The end.

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