One day, after skinny jeans made it clear they were here to stay, I went to one of those trendy stores at the mall to invest in a “nice” pair. I tried on several, and after each pair, the sales girl told me, “nope, one size smaller.” (I know! Not where you thought I was going to go with that one, huh?) She kept squeezing me and squeezing me, trying to convince me that these pants would “stretch out” and become comfortable with time.
What she didn’t consider, however, was my need to move around while wearing the pants as they “stretched out.” I needed to be able to actually put them on in the first place, and based on my first experience with the zipper, it simply wasn’t going to happen. Even if she convinced me to buy them and take them home and perhaps remove the tags, the chances of me getting out of the house with them on my person were slim to nil. She didn’t understand that, for a person who had lived in yoga pants for 3 years, the idea of discomfort in the name of fashion was laughable. She could tell me all the wonderful things about these pants, but the fact remained: the pants didn’t fit.
My believing friends, I think when we talk to younger generations about God, we’re trying to sell them an ill-fitting pair of pants.
The more I interact with people who live with belief systems unlike my own – or, very similar to my own but with distinctly different vocabulary and starting points – I realize how we’re missing the point. We have begun to equate our view of the world with another person’s belief in God.
For instance, dualism, or the three-level existence of the world. (I know, Rob Bell is scary to many people. He’s honest and poetic, issuing warnings around What Ought Not Be and thus banished by the higher-ups who control mainstream Christiandom. In my understanding, this is the definition of a prophet.) (Boom! Half my audience… gone. Now we can talk without tiptoeing.)
Most Christians ascribe to this three-tiered worldview because it’s the worldview in which our scriptures were written. This is fine. Go ahead. (Honestly. I’m not being judgey here.) I often operate from here, at least as a starting point. Let’s call this seeing the world red. We look out, and everything has a red tint to it. It’s simply the color of our world.
Yet, this is not the way many younger generations see and experience the world. They live in a different reality. They see blue. Often, then, the starting point at discussing such things like God, Jesus, the Bible or religion comes down to a red person trying to convince a blue person that the world is actually red. “The world is red!” we say. “And in this redness, you find Jesus here, God there, and it all fits together like this!”
And our confused and slightly worried audience says, “buuuuuut… the world is blue. I don’t see any red. Those are blue trees and blue clouds. Blue.”
Option 1, the most common response, is usually: “Well, actually those are red. But you’ll come to understand it and see it that way once you believe it.”
I’d like to propose Option 2: “Tell me about God in your blue world.”
Because we talk about the Bigness of God, the Everywhereness of God, the Transcendence of God (if you like those big, theological words). We believe in these things, yes? That God is so very in control, mightier-than and Above All else?
So why are we scared of what God is like in a blue world? Can God not live there? Why do we believe God only exists, as we know Him, in a red world? When did we begin to confuse the way in which we experience the world and what we know to be true about God? Those two things have a symbiotic relationship, for sure. But they are not equals. I believe the God can exist beyond my own understanding.
Truth be known, the blue generation will someday come up against another trend, the youngsters living in an understanding of yellow. We cannot fathom it, because our understanding is so limited to the here and now. But the world is too big and spectacular for me to believe that we have arrived, that All the Things are known, check please. I have higher hopes for my children and their children and the generations beyond the here and now. And I have faith that God will keep showing up, no matter how the world sees itself.
Next on my reading shelf is Diana Butler Bass’ Grounded: Finding God in the World – A Spiritual Revolution. If you’d like to read along with me, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts. We’ll set up a little FB group for discussion! Let me know you’re interested.