Youth and Homosexuality and the church – jodie’s questions

January 19, 2008 by
Filed under: Religion, Youth 

jodie in the comments on yesterday’s update has posted a lot of questions.  They deserve their own post, so I’ll answer them here.

How do the youth in your church view the Evangelical hostility to gay ordination? Is there a generational gap there too, besides the theological one? In my church the youth are flabbergasted that anybody should care. It seems that among college kids and younger, homosexuality just is. There is no scandal in it at all. There is huge support for kids that are gay but don’t get parental support, and if the Church has a problem with gays then it’s because the Church has forgotten what Christ was all about. Not only that, but if someone says that Homosexuality is a sin because the bible says so, then for them that is just proof that the bible is wrong. In other words, the Evangelical war is actually undermining the authority of the Scriptures. Are you guys seeing the same thing?

The answer requires a little background.

First, my church is tending toward the liberal end of the denomination.  The town surrounding the church tends to be a bit more liberal as well.

Second, the youth group hasn’t talked about sexuality per se since I started working with them.  It was the subject of a retreat last year before I joined them.  So I’m working from conjecture.

Third, our youth are not homogenous in their views on sexuality.  I know that we have some outspoken proponents of gay rights.  I also know that we have some youth that I suspect hold more conservative views on the subject.

We’ll take the questions in the order that my brain spews text.  Hopefully I’ll answer all of the questions.

We have one or two youth who participated on their own initiative in the National Day of Silence last year (and will participate this year).  I’ll put them at the pro-gay end of the spectrum.  We have had a youth who is the daughter of a pair of gay men (who were one of the first civil union couples in the state) – she has graduated now.  Several members of the rest of the group talk about generally liberal causes (poverty, environment, the distrubution of wealth throughout the world).

We don’t talk about evangelicals using that name.  We do talk about judgmental Christians (the implication being Too judgmental).  Our youth group has as part of our covenant that the group is a safe space to talk about things that are important to you without ridicule from other group members.  We don’t expect everybody to agree, and we do debate issues sometimes, but in the end we respect and love the person and at worst listen to the idea.  The group does speak negatively about those Christians who are unable to love each person – who condemn them and use loaded names and terms for people.  Please be clear – when I use the term “we” I mean the youth, the adult advisors, and the paid staff.  As a group we only talk about judgmental Christians (we don’t even use a term for them) in passing.  It’s not like we spend a night talking about them.

I think you’re right.  Gay people are just a fact of life for these youth.  They have grown up in an era where prejudice against identifiable groups (even groups attacking our country) is not tolerated.  This attitude naturally carries over to homosexuality.  These youth recognize that anti-gay speech (up to and often including “homosexuality is against God’s will”) is just not expected.  If anybody harbors anti-gay feelings I haven’t seen it openly.  Now, this is New Jersey where civil unions are the law of the land and are practically the same legally as marriages.  I can see how it would be different in other parts of the country.

Another problem that we are fighting in our youth group is pressure from church members (most often parents of youth who do NOT participate) not to make the church youth group too “churchy”.  Our youth director reports that he’s actually had parents tell him that mentioning the Bible too often will drive the youth away from the group.  I think that this is true for some youth, but hey!  This is church.  That’s what we do.  We’ve made a conscious decision to up the theological and scriptural content of the youth program one notch and see how it goes.  The youth know right from wrong and have a vague sense that it’s the Christian thing to do, but I believe they’d be hard-pressed to link their right actions to our beliefs.  We aim to fix that.

Not only that, but if someone says that Homosexuality is a sin because the bible says so, then for them that is just proof that the bible is wrong. In other words, the Evangelical war is actually undermining the authority of the Scriptures.

I repeat that quote because it’s huge.  I can’t say if this war is turning youth away from the church or the Bible, but I can speak for myself.  It DOES turn me away from the church sometimes.  It doesn’t turn me away from God, Christ or the Bible because I understand the concept of interpretation and “Reformed, Always Reforming”.  Of course, I have experience with the church above and beyond what our youth have plus a religion minor in college including 50% Christian courses backing my thoughts.  They don’t.

Speaking purely of my unchurched and formerly churched friends in their 20’s to 40’s, this legalistic attitude in the church does turn them away.  Many of them were previously heavily involved in church but aren’t now – and the judgmental nature of the media image of Christianity (and their own experience with it) keeps them away.  They speak of themselves as “still a Christian, but I don’t want to be part of a church”.

It’s also important to realize that Generation X and to a lesser extent Generation Y have an attitude of “waiting for the world to change”.  They know that someday the leaders (corporate, church, governmental) will retire and die off and at that point the Gen X and Y folks will be able to make the changes that they see need to be made.  There’s a feeling that gay marriage will inevitably be accepted by society and subsequently the church so why worry about it.  It’s just a matter of time.  In the mean time they go on about their lives without regard to the “outdated” rules.

And the Millenials? They aren’t waiting.  They’re just forging ahead with their own rules and their own structure and succeeding.  They aren’t waiting for the rules to change – they are going around the obstacles in their path.  These are the folks who need to understand why a work assignment needs to be done and how it fits into the larger picture before they’ll lift a finger.  The Gen X and Y folks are going to find that they waited too long for control and the Millenials already grabbed it from the Baby Boomers.

And the Millenials don’t understand what the fighting is about.  Gay people are gay people – what’s the big deal?

One last note – the youth at my church barely understand what ordination is.  We’re working on that – in part by adding a seat to Session intended for one year terms for a youth in high school.  But the gay ordination fight isn’t on their radar.  It’s not an issue in our church (yes, we’ve ordained openly gay people) and they just aren’t plugged into the news or greater church enough to understand the gay ordination debate.  They just see it as more discrimination against a minority group.


3 Comments on Youth and Homosexuality and the church – jodie’s questions

  1. jodie on Sun, 20th Jan 2008 12:22 am
  2. A lot of people don’t know what ordination is – or is not.

    It is not a sacrament. It is not ordained (no pun intended) by God. It is not in the Scriptures. John Calvin was never ordained.

    So what >>is<< it? And why is it worth (or not worth) fighting over? I think that if people are going to get so feisty over it, maybe God should just abolish ordination. I mean, maybe it's like a toy that your kids start fighting over. Just take it away from them. That's what I would do if I was God...

    […] and subscriptionism are just the last gasps of the Modern world.  I work with youth, and have written previously about how I see homosexuality being perceived by those youth.  I believe that the church of the […]

  3. Boomerang : Mark Time on Fri, 13th Feb 2009 12:31 pm
  4. […] copies for Confirmation Class.  She told me that her question was driven by something I’d written a week ago: The youth know right from wrong and have a vague sense that it’s the Christian thing to do, […]

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