Dan Kimball wrote a book a few years back called They Like Jesus But Not the Church (see photo, above). In it he explores the perception many young people (as well as many "old" people) have that the church is becoming an increasingly archaic institution, with little to offer in the way of modern-day relevance. Church has become, for them, an anachronistic association of like-minded people more interested in preserving the status quo than they are in changing the world.
Following in Kimball's footsteps is a young filmmaker named Jefferson Bethke, who echoed the sentiments of the young people interviewed in Kimball's book in a video he recently uploaded to YouTube called, "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus." The video went viral (which, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, means that a lot of people––in this case, 18,160,258 people, as of today––have watched it). Click on the link, below, if you'd like to see the video:
"Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus"
Clearly Mr. Bethke touched a nerve, especially with the so-called "Y Generation"––those born in the 1980s and 90s who are currently staying away from the church in droves.
And, in speaking for many of them, he also, in the process, made those of us whose job it is to reach those Gen Y folks (i.e., all of us) think, as well.
One of the people he made think was New York Times columnist David Brooks, who penned some thoughts about the video in his February 2 column, "How to Fight the Man" (see link, below):
How to Fight the Man
In it, Mr. Brooks pointed out the importance of not only understanding what you're against, but also, and very importantly, what you're for. As he notes:
Effective rebellion isn't just expressing your personal feelings. It means replacing one set of authorities and institutions with a better set of authorities and institutions. Authorities and institutions don't repress the passions of the heart, the way some young people now suppose. They give them focus and a means to turn passion into change.
Mr. Brooks also noted that Mr. Bethke has since recanted his perspective on "spiritual, but not religious" thinking in response to a Christian blogger named Kevin DeYoung, who posted a thoughtful (but not combative response) to Mr. Bethke's video on his blog:
Does Jesus Hate Religion? Kinda, Sorta, Not Really
So. What does this all mean for us––those of us who not only love Jesus, but who also love the Church?
It means that we need to remember:
- That none of us has "the" definitive answer when it comes to Jesus, religion, or the church;
- That it's important for us to listen to those who see things differently than we do;
- That the Spirit blows where it will (John 3:8). Our job, then, is not to direct the Spirit to where we think it should go, but to follow instead where the Spirit is leading. Even if (or maybe, especially when) the Spirit works through things like YouTube videos.
Admittedly, this process of tuning into the Spirit sounds a lot easier than it often is.
But we are called, as Christians, to open ourselves up to the possibilities set forth by the Spirit through worship, through prayer, through Scripture, through open and honest conversation with one another, and maybe even through spiritual direction, as we strive (and sometime struggle) to discern just where God is in the messiness of our lives.
It's not easy, to be sure ... but it's so worth it.
Who knows but that our openness might help people see it's okay to not only love Jesus, but also religion and the Church, as well.