My wife and I moved to Colorado Springs in early June 2013, about six and a half months ago. Finding people has taken longer than we expected in a city of over 400,000 people where you can throw a rock in any direction and break a stained glass window.
The (very) small Presbyterian church that we attend has been a breath of fresh air to us both, but there are exactly three other people there who are anywhere near our age. We’ve gone out and visited other churches, and several of them are vibrant and huge and growing, but it seems like they’re growing because they do everything that my wife and I can’t stand in churches.
The lights flash and the music fights to put you into an altered state of consciousness but in the inanity of it all we look at each other sadly and shake our heads. I find myself psychoanalyzing the lyrics to songs about wanting to feel God’s presence followed by songs about feeling God’s presence, and my wife psychoanalyzes the reasons that they chose the color red for the spotlight (to invoke an emotional response matching the mood of the song).
Then the pastor gets up, pulls about ten or so verses out of context for three points about one thing and goes off about how this church is better than other churches in town because they preach the Bible without apology. Then he (always a “he”) pulls theology out of thin air, injects meaning into the verses that was never there to begin with, and by the time he gets to the invitation my lovely bride is squeezing my hand tightly so I don’t do something crazy like go up to the pastor and tell him to stop lying in the name of God. Either that or he makes some kind of completely horrible claim that drops me into a tailspin of faith and makes me wonder if God exists and if the Bible is a remotely decent representation.
And then, as desperate as I am for community, I can barely speak to the other people in church because they’re celebrating what a wonderful service it was and how God really touched their hearts and I’m in the middle of debating whether we just had two completely different experiences, I have no connection with God, or God doesn’t exist at all, and as bad as the service has been I’m leaning toward option three.
So we go to our little Presbyterian church and live the beautiful Presbyterian liturgy of confession, assurance of forgiveness, hymns, reading of scripture (four passages, I might add), exposition by our pastor who has a Master’s in Divinity from Princeton and a Ph.D in Theology from the University of Notre Dame, followed by holy communion. And we wonder why the standard evangelical faire always disappoints us.
But as best I can tell, most of the people our age are going to the megachurches that make us both crazy. I wish The American Conservative’s article about Why Millennials Long for Liturgy would hold true. Maybe millennials are moving to mainline churches, but they aren’t coming to ours, which for me means that they’re missing out. I love our pastor and the older couples there, but I miss having someone closer to my age and available to bounce ideas off of and talk things through with. The Christian blogging collective I’m in helps somewhat with community, but I want to do more than read articles and comment. And I love my wife, but she can’t be a complete community for me any more than I can be that community for her.
So we’re thinking about going to a Young Adult group at yet another church tomorrow night. I don’t know if I’ll be more disappointed if we don’t go or if we do go and just get let down again. I’ve read their statement of faith and hit my two most common red flags:
- Their view about the Bible comes ahead of their view about God, and
- They use words like inerrant and no mistakes, and even (in some cases) “verbal plenary inspiration,” which is shorthand for “God dictated every word.”
Saying that the Bible is authoritative because it’s inerrant is like saying that a puppy is cute because it can fly. It sets both up for failure on a topic that’s completely irrelevant.
And then they fill up the statements of faith with things that aren’t in the creeds like “substitutionary death” and spiritual gifts, and things that aren’t in the Bible, like the rapture.
I know what I’m signing up for every time I/we visit churches with statements of faith like this. I always hope to be wrong, but I’m disappointed every time. And here we are, contemplating getting on the roller coaster again.
Honestly, I don’t need them to agree with me on everything. I just wish they’d leave space for the possibility that I just might be a Christian too in spite of our disagreements. I wish I could feel comfortable talking about those disagreements, because I’ve given a lot of thought to why I think the standard opinion on any number of topics is wrong, and I’m afraid that they’re going to try to fix me so I’m like them. I’d also appreciate a more neutral space for dialogue, rather than an auditorium where several hundred people are shouting amen to a preacher who’s saying things that make me want to scream.
Where my peeps at?